Saylor.org's Comparative Politics/Checks and Balances between Branches of Government

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Checks and Balances[edit]

In order to prevent any branch of government from becoming too powerful, the Framers of the Constitution in the United States created a system of checks and balances. Each branch of government has checks on the others, while it is itself also checked. The complex system can be outlined as follows:

Checks of the Legislative

Checks on the Executive

  • Power to override vetoes
  • Power to confirm the President's appointment of a Vice President when a vacancy in the Vice Presidency occurs
  • Power to tax and allocate tax revenues for executive activities
  • Oversight and investigation of executive activities
  • (Senate) Power to approve treaties
  • (Senate) Power to approve Presidential nominees
  • (House) Impeachment, or accusation of a federal official for bribery, treason, or another high crime
  • (Senate) Trial of Impeachment

Checks on the Judicial

  • Power to set size and structure of courts
  • (Senate) Power to approve Presidential nominees for judgeships
  • (House) Impeachment
  • (Senate) Trial of Impeachment

Internal Checks

  • Approval of both houses required for passage of a law

Checks of the Executive

Checks on the Legislative

  • Power to veto
  • Power to pocket veto
  • Power to call a special session of Congress when Congress is not already meeting
  • Vice President presides over Senate meetings as President of the Senate
  • Congress cannot reduce the salary of the President while he continues in office

Checks on the Judicial

  • Power to nominate judges
  • Power to fully or partially pardon convicted criminals

Checks of the Judicial

Checks on the Legislative

  • Power to declare bills unconstitutional
  • Congress cannot reduce the salary of a judge while he continues in office
  • The Chief Justice presides over an Impeachment Trial of a President

Checks on the Executive

  • Power to declare executive acts unconstitutional

Contents Colonial America - Articles of Confederation - The Constitutional Convention - Ratification - The Three Branches - The Federal System - General Provisions - The Bill of Rights - The Later Amendments - Legislative Branch - Executive Branch - Judicial Branch